My husband, Brett, and I are college sweethearts and have been family friends a majority of our lives.  I am from an Irish Catholic family, my parents are high school sweethearts, and I am one of 5 children.  Our family is seemingly full of babies + easy pregnancies. We are all very tight knit and no one in my family has ever struggled from infertility.  After my husband and I got married, we could not wait to start our family. You know, "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage."  Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy for us. 


It took us over a year of trying, actively, tracking everything, every month, oral fertility treatments and finally....we were pregnant. We were so overjoyed! I had very minimal morning sickness and cherished every moment of pregnancy.  With each pound gained I loved my growing belly more and more.  I sailed through my pregnancy without issues.  We went to our 20 week ultrasound and did not find out the gender of our baby.  We were so overwhelmed that we had a baby on board we did not care what gender he/she was. When I was 22.5 weeks we went to bed and I got up in the middle to go to the bathroom (peeing like 15 times a night at this point thanks to the little peanut in there laying on my bladder).  When I got into the bathroom (still a little disoriented from sleeping) I noticed my underwear were wet.  When I finally flipped the light on I could tell my underwear and bed were soaked in blood.  At the time I was a labor and delivery nurse and knew this was very, very, very, bad but I also could feel the baby moving so I knew at this time he/she was alive.  We rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night and upon assessment at the hospital I was notified I was in preterm labor. I was dilated to 4cm and my bag of waters was bulging through my cervix. .  They diagnosed me with an incompetent cervix which is why I dilated without contractions.  The doctor said the prognosis for the baby was grim as I was not quite 23 weeks and viability was 24.  I laid in the hospital bed listening to my baby's perfect heartbeat and did not want to give up.  I was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic the next morning by ambulance and spent the next two days laying in trendelenburg position (my legs were tipped up, so I was tilted on my head to keep pressure off of my cervix).  Over the next 2 days, my water eventually broke and by the third day delivery was imminent (I was 22 weeks 6 days).  My baby was breech so her delivery was traumatic as her tiny head got stuck in my cervix (her feet and body were born first).  The doctors advised me against c-section because they said the surgery was dangerous for a baby that did not have a good prognosis. Our daughter, Peyton Rose, was born on August 13, 2012.  Her delivery was traumatic physically and emotionally and was done without pain relief. The NICU doctor told us within a few hours of her life that she had a bad brain bleed and was just too tiny and too hurt to have any quality of life.  We removed life support at several hours of age.  As we spent the next 36 hours in the post partum unit we were in a fog.  I will never forget hearing the cries of healthy babies in the rooms on both sides of us and the happy smiling families and visitors in the hallway. I will never forget coming home from the hospital - empty handed, walking into our home without a baby and without a pregnancy.  Our dreams were crushed.  To add insult to injury, several days after coming home from the hospital my milk came in and I had horrible pain with engorgement.  So much milk but no baby to nourish.


I wanted to instantly be pregnant again.  I wanted my belly back and to feel my baby's movements inside my womb.  However, I had to wait the medically advised time to start trying again, which was the longest and most depressing 6 months of my life.  When I could finally start trying again, I became pregnant, fairly easily.  Continuing to work as a labor and delivery nurse I worked Mother's Day weekend.  As I was working I started to have some spotting, which progressed to heavier bleeding and eventually clots.  My prayed for pregnancy had resulted in a miscarriage....on Mother's Day.  I was crushed and really questioning my faith in God.


Thankfully we did get pregnant soon after with our son, now 7, William Russell.  We had a very nerve wracking, anxiety ridden, partial bed rest, pregnancy.  But he came, happy, healthy, and one day shy of full term.  My life felt so whole.  


When Wil was about 18 months old we decided to promote him to big brother. I felt like I had cracked my fertility code and had fine-tuned the meds I needed to get pregnant.  We got pregnant fairly easily and had a very easy first trimester.  I was so anxious to see if we would be having another boy or a baby girl.  We had planned our gender reveal the same night as our anatomy ultrasound (at 18 weeks) because I knew I would be eager to find out.  We went in for the anatomy scan and I instantly felt the sonographer's tone change as she was scanning my tummy. I grew anxious and continued to ask if everything was ok.  Sonographers cannot deliver any news as they need a doctor to read the scan.  Poker-faced she just replied, "I am seeing everything I need to see".  I knew in my gut and my mama heart that something was wrong.  She finished the scan and then we were brought into a room where my OB doctor came in and delivered the news.  We learned that our son had major neural tube defects, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, amongst other anomalies.  But how could this be?  I am healthy, I am young, I am a healthy weight, I eat a balanced diet, I have taken a pre-natal vitamin daily since before conception.  So how? and WHY?? Why me?  I have already lost one baby.  How was God doing this to me again? I kept screaming, "nothing ever goes right for us.  Nothing ever goes {expletive} right for us!!" I will never forget looking at my husband, his eyes welled in tears, and him saying "Katie, things DO go right for us.  Did you forget about our little boy at home?  He's healthy.  Things do go right for us."  


We were told we would need a level II ultrasound, which thankfully we could have done that very day.  When we came back for the level II we learned the news was worse than they had originally thought.  The extent of our sons neural tube defects were horrible- he would never walk, talk, have bowel or bladder function, and had a very very small chance of survival or a full term pregnancy.  They ultimately told us our son was "not compatible with life."  My husband and I were given our options and we rode home, exhausted from weeping, in shock, defeated, + in silence.  


Our son, Patrick David was born into heaven on November 17.  This grief process was hard.  Very hard.  It was accompanied by shame and immense pain. I felt so very defeated.   I also had to pull myself together and still be a mother to the 1 1/2 year old  I had at home.  The days were long, dark, and my faith was tested.  My marriage was tested.  I was tested.  As I worked through the grief process I slowly began to feel more at peace with our decisions and feel a peace in my heart that our son was in heaven and free of pain. 


Again, I so badly wanted to be pregnant.  We had gotten pregnant easily before so I was eager to start trying again, as soon as I was medically able. We began trying immediately.  We tried for 12 months.  Every single month, tracking, fertility meds, trying, negative pregnancy tests.   On Patrick's first birthday, I was exhausted, burnt out, depressed, and hopeless.  This was the day I took a positive pregnancy test.  I felt like it was a little sign from him saying, "I got you mama, just relax". 


9 Months later our rainbow baby, another boy, Jameson Patrick (now 3 and soooo spicy!!)  came into the world.  And 2 years later their sister, Eloise Jo (now 1 and sooo sweet).  Our hearts are full (and so are our hands!!!)  Our days are crazy and I often feel very overwhelmed with the craziness (although these are the days we prayed for!)


I am forever thankful for my No Foot Too Small family, to have walked alongside me + supported me throughout this crazy, devastating yet joyous journey of motherhood. It felt so comforting to know I was not alone in all of this. 


If you have read this far, thank you for reading, I hope my story can bring you some comfort + possibly some hope. Please reach out if you would like to talk further. Xoxo -Katie 


Katie + Brett Stedman